Previously in this cosmic comic cavalcade of catastrophes, our author Larry Winchester (“One part Homer, one part Rabelais, two parts The Three Stooges” -- Horace P. Sternwall) introduced a character no one was expecting, none other than South Philadelphia’s own Mr. Joey Bishop...
(Go here to read our previous episode; click here, if you must, to return to the very beginning of this third place prize-winner of the Herman Melville Sprawling Epic Award.)
Dick, Daphne and Harvey entered a large pink and chartreuse room with yellow shag carpeting, “1950’s Modern” furniture in various pastels, an oval stainless steel cocktail bar, and large paintings of sad but stylish young women with enormous eyes.
Matt Munro’s version of "Born Free" played over invisible speakers.
Joey Bishop, wearing a short-sleeved yellow Banlon shirt, now stood behind the bar preparing some drinks.
Richard Conte, in a shiny grey sharkskin suit and a skinny black tie, came over with cigarette in hand to greet the newcomers.
“The boss’ll be out in a minute. Christ, you people look like you’ve been through a war. You wanta shower? Change? Mr. Ridpath, you look like you could fit into one of my suits. You like sharkskin?”
Joey, shaking a silver cocktail shaker, said, “Does he look like a dago?”
“Shaddap, borscht-brain,” said Richard. “Harvey, you look about Joey’s size. You like yellow Banlon shirts? He’s got a million of ‘em.”
“What the fuck’s wrong with yellow Banlon shirts?” said Joey.
“Fuckin’ guy’s brother-in-law heists a Mack-truckload of yellow Banlon shirts back in ‘58, and now it’s all he ever wears,” said Richard.
“Hey, fuck you,” said Joey. “I wear ‘em once and throw ‘em away. I still got six boxes of ‘em.”
Dean Martin -- wearing a “western” jacket, a white ten-gallon Stetson and hand-tooled cowboy boots -- came in from another room, lighting a cigarette with a shiny gold lighter.
“Where’s the boss man?” he said.
“Takin’ a crap,” said Joey.
Dean turned back to the room he had just exited and drawled, “Come on in, Pete. They’re here. Where’s Sammy, anyway?”
Peter Lawford entered smiling, holding a cigarette in a tortoise-shell holder and wearing a burnt-orange six-button double-breasted suit with a red silk print tie and a gold chain with a gold peace-symbol pendant.
“Sammy,” said Peter, “is uh otherwise engaged at the moment.”
“Hey hey hey,” said Dean. “That cute high yella gal from the Copa show?”
Peter, chuckling, said, “I think it be no other than e’en so.” And to the newcomers: “Dear god, you people are a mess. Would you care to change into something more comfortable?”
“Yes,” said Daphne, “I would, thank you very much.”
She looked down, with widespread hands, at her blood-spattered clothing.
“I think that could be arranged, ma’am,” said Dean. “Richard, go see if Cyd’s got something to lend the lady.”
“Sid?” said Daphne. “Do I look that dykish?”
“Cyd is a lady, lady,” said Dean.
“And a very classy broad she is, too,” said Joey.
“Cyd Charisse,” said Peter. “The celebrated danseuse.”
“She’s headlinin’ the T&A show ‘cross the street at Caesar’s,” said Joey.
A toilet flushed loudly somewhere, and everyone fell silent for a few moments.
Joey, a shaker in each hand, poured out martinis into a row of cocktail glasses.
Another door opened and Frank Sinatra came out, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and wearing a white turtleneck shirt, white slacks, and white duck loafers. He finished buckling his white belt.
“Greetings and salutations. How’d all these people get in my room?”
“Cocktails are ready, Frank,” said Joey.
Frank went to the bar, picked up a martini, sipped it, licked his lips, and then paused for an appraising moment.
The mood somehow relaxed then, and Frank nodded, smiling at Dick and Daphne and Harvey.
“You people look like shit. You also look like you could use a drink. Come on over and help yourselves and then we’ll get you cleaned up.”
“I”m gonna run over to Caesar’s,” said Richard, “see if Cyd’s got an outfit for the lady. You know, a nice trouser-suit or --”
“Fuck that noise,” said Frank. “What are we, pikers? Run down to Saks and get the lady a nice evening dress. And some shoes -- with heels. Then stop in at Brooks and get the fellas a couple of suits. And shoes. Black shoes.”
Frank put down his drink, reached into his front pocket and took out an enormous wad of money in a gold clip. He peeled off a sheath of crisp new hundred-dollar bills.
“Yo, boss,” said Richard, “what the hell do I know about buyin’ ladies’ evening dresses?”
“You’re gonna learn,” said Frank.
Richard came over and Frank handed him the money and then said, “Come on, folks, the cocktail hour has arrived, and not a moment too soon.”
Dick, Daphne and Harvey came over to the bar.
“Tell him your size, sweetheart,” said Frank to Daphne.
“My size? Gosh, I’m not sure.”
Richard, Dean and Peter all came over to the bar and took drinks.
“Leave it to me,” says Joey.
He pulled a tape measure out from under the bar, grabbed a pencil and a notepad, came around and started measuring Daphne.
“Joey learned a valuable trade doin’ three-to-five at Joliet,” said Frank.
Joey wrote something on the pad, then visually appraised Dick and Harvey. To Dick he said:
“I’m thinkin’ a 42 long. 32 waist? 34 inseam.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Dick.
Joey scribbled on his pad again, then squinted at Harvey.
“38,” said Joey. “No, 36, regular. And 28-28.”
Joey wrote something on the pad, ripped off the sheet and handed it to Richard. Then he turned to Harvey again.
“Sure I can’t interest ya in a yellow Banlon?”
Richard picked up a shaker and poured himself a refill.
“Hey,” said Frank. “I said go shop, not go drink. Now blow.”
Richard swallowed his martini in a gulp and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I’m blowing, I’m blowing,” he said, and he headed for the door.
Frank shook his head.
“So hard to get good help these days. But please, speaking of help -- help yourselves.”
Dick and Daphne and Harvey each picked up a martini.
Harvey would have preferred a beer. He’d never actually had a martini before.
Frank raised his glass.
“Cent’ ann’. Welcome to Jilly’s West.”
Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” came on in the background.****
(To be continued for no good reason.)